Thursday 23 May 2019

Smyth refuses to get distracted by Gay drug storm

Derry Paralympic star focused on world championships

Paralympic athletes Orla Barry, Jason Smyth and Darragh McDonald at yesterday’s Paralympics Ireland-Allianz launch
Paralympic athletes Orla Barry, Jason Smyth and Darragh McDonald at yesterday’s Paralympics Ireland-Allianz launch
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IRISH Paralympic star Jason Smyth has not ruled out returning to training with Tyson Gay in Florida despite the American sprinter testing positive for a banned substance.

The Derry native, a double gold medallist at the last two Games and known as the "fastest Paralympian on the planet", said he was shocked by the news that Gay had failed a drug test, but said any decision on next year would wait until the IPC World Championships, which begin in Montreal on Friday, are over.

Smyth has spent his winters training with Gay for the past four years, and the 2007 world 100m and 200m champion has spoken highly of his training partner in the past.

Last summer's London hero Smyth was in Dublin yesterday for the announcement that Allianz would sponsor the team in Lyon this week, but the shadow of the Gay story refused to go away.

"The last time I was out (in Florida) was the end of June. I spend all winter there and then I'm up in Derry training and competing," he said.

"Looking forward, at this point my focus is on the Paralympic World Championships. I think if you get distracted by everything else that is going on, it would take your eye off the ball... ultimately, I have got to perform and it becomes a distraction, and distractions are not what you need.

"My focus is very much on performing. After the World Championships I will look at whatever I am doing anyway, no matter what the situation.

"But right now, the Paralympic World Games, 100m, 200m – I want to go and hopefully win golds because I wasn't able to two years ago, so I don't know (if I'll go back)."

The revelations that Gay and his sprint rival Asafa Powell were among a number of athletes to test positive has sent shockwaves through athletics and, while he was unwilling to rule out returning to Florida, Smyth did echo David Gillick's call to increase bans on athletes who are caught taking drugs intentionally.

"For me, it is all the same. If you are intentionally cheating then you shouldn't be there," he said. "If you are silly enough to intentionally go out of your way to do it, then you have to face the consequences. Cheating is in no way acceptable in any walk of life."

And Smyth says that he was not aware of any drug taking while spending time in camp with Gay last winter.

"We're there to train, we're there to get your head down and work hard," he said. "What people do or don't do, I don't know. If you want to know what Tyson Gay is up to, you'd have to ask Tyson Gay."

Smyth will be relieved to be back on the track this weekend as he looks to win the Worlds to go with his Paralympic medals.

He missed the last World Championships with injury and does not feel that the pressure that comes with his performances in London and status will affect him.

"Without a doubt, you're going in again expecting to win. That's what people's expectations are of you and there is a lot of pressure that comes with that," he said. "But I feel like I have been around long enough and competed in enough major championships that I know how to deal with it.

"I also tend not to get too caught up in it and the thoughts of it and I try to focus on me and what I can do."

Ireland yesterday named their squads for the Worlds, and for the swimming World Championships that take place also in Montreal, in August.

Action from the athletics will be televised on Channel 4 and streamed on Paralympics Ireland's website and begins on Friday.


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